"Thus open the gates of paradise."

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Mission To Mars

06 Apr 2002

It's certainly cheesy to compare the service I'm providing you here to that given by the Son Of God, but where "Mission To Mars" is concerned, the more cheese the better.

More cheese, please

You would think that films, having been made for about 100 years now, would be getting a bit predictable and formulaic. You create some characters, you devise some conflict, the characters overcome the conflict (if it's before about 1986 and it's American), or knuckle under (if it's after 1986 or you're not American). The credits roll, and the audience shuffles away.

How brave then, of the makers of "Mission To Mars" to eschew a logical story, character development, and any attempt at good science. Actually, that's not quite true. They do offer up some chin music to Isaac Newton in a conversation about the tradeoff between getting to Mars fast and carrying cargo. But once that brief lucid moment has passed, it's back to business as usual with fanciful flights of fancy.

The whole film is woven with the same thread that stitched together any number of Fred Astaire movies. You know the ones where someone plucks up their courage and says, "Say fellas! Why don't we put on a show?" A series of immaculate "rehearsal" numbers follow, and then the credits roll. Well now it's the 21st century and instead of donning our dancing shoes, we're off to the Red Planet, full cheese ahead.

Never being one to travel alone, I had dragged fellow reviewer Jazzmaster Beggs to the theatre. In the post-film mop up, he said his favourite moment was the scene when, after spending 4 months rushing to Mars to help their pal from the previous mission -- a pal in medical distress and without much food or water -- they finally land only to find the American flag on the ground covered in dirt. So what's the first thing they do? That's right -- hoist up Old Glory. They rally for a moment or two, then remembering that they came all this way for a reason, they go off to find their friend. The Jazzmaster and I saluted in our seats.

My favourite moment: there's the bit at the end (you don't actually care that I'm telling you about the ending, do you?) where the surviving astronauts come face to face with a Martian. In an protracted scene, they stand in a circle around some special effects, and all join hands. I was just waiting for one of them to start singing "Kumbya", but I guess they weren't putting on a show after all, and Fred Astaire wasn't even there.

Related Sites

Mission To Mars (IMDB)
Mission To Mars (Official Web Site)
Virtual Solar System
NASA Mars Exploration Program